Derry/Londonderry Northern Ireland


The name 'Londonderry' to me brought up images of recent history, of the years of 'The Troubles', so I was curious to visit.

The historic centre of the town in enclosed by walls built in 1613 to 1619, there were 4 gates to enter the city. The walls protected the city and they were never breached, for that reason it's called the 'Maiden city' (!)

Picture taken on the walls.

It's quite simple to get up onto the walls and there's an easy walking path to do the complete circuit.

I didn't realise that when I took this picture, what a historically significant area this was. I took it as the B & B where I stayed was near the church whose steeple you can see on the right. (It's the catholic St. Eugene's church) This area is the Bogside and the site of the events of Bloody Sunday. (Which admittedly makes me think of the U2 song!)

The road that runs parallel to the walls was where 13 people were killed on January 30th 1972. I walked down the road to see the murals and there was a large plaque explaining the events of Bloody Sunday so it made me realise what a historic part of town I was in. I had wondered too why the housing was so new, the old Rossville high-rise flats that were the scene of the shootings that day were bulldozed and new housing constructed. There are murals lining the main road, called the Bogside Murals.

Besides wanting to see the murals, this sign was the main reason I walked along the street, it's very iconic. I've seen it in many books, articles, TV documentaries. What did puzzle me about it though, now it's just a wall, I was sure it had been attached to a house! The row of houses that came with the sign were ones demolished to make room for new housing and I'm assuming road widening. The sign is in the middle of a main road, it was raining that day as well, so got an extra Irish experience!

This little cottage is inside the walls, in an area with some other traditional buildings. It is chocolate box pretty, but there's a deeper meaning behind its existence. The cottage is a modern replica of a traditional whitewash, thatched roof Irish cottage. It was built during The Troubles, when the city had military checkpoints on the bridges, the gates to the cities and people's lives were disrupted with the violence of that time. A local builder built this cottage in the 1980s (I think) at the time when nothing was being built but rather destroyed, it was a sign of hope. 

This picture is from the walls as well. It's the Guildhall, part of which (the side) was destroyed by a bomb during The Troubles and has been restored. Behind the Guildhall can be seen a pedestrian bridge called 'Peace Bridge' it links the predominantly catholic western side with the protestant east side. It opens out at a former British Army Barracks called Ebrington Barracks where the soldiers were stationed when they served in Northern Ireland.

View of the River Foyle from Peace Bridge.

Further afield

Not Derry and not even Northern Ireland but the Republic, I drove out to Donegal and the northern most tip of Ireland. From Derry the border is a 2 minute drive, I wasn't sure if there was an border control so I brought my passport. I needn't have bothered! The only way I knew I had crossed the border was when the signs went from miles per hour, to kilometres per hour! (Northern Ireland being part of the UK still uses miles)

The border had been open before The Troubles and people were used to moving freely across the border. With the problems of that period of time the border was manned by soldiers and checkpoints that could take quite some time to get through. It was very much the atmosphere at the time of a country at war. With the peace settlement, the borders are open again.

This is the northern most point in Ireland. What fascinated me here was when I read about the sign. Eire is written in large (now fading letters) it was done during World War II, the Republic of Ireland (Eire) was neutral and military planes weren't meant to fly over it. Being so close to Northern Ireland, which as part of the UK was at war, pilots needed to have quick visual alerts that they were in the wrong place!

I loved visiting Northern Ireland, I visited 2 good museums one in Derry and one in Belfast, explaining its troubled past. I found it to be such a hopeful place, here was a country that for years had been tearing itself apart with sectarian violence, had made peace and was moving forward. Optimistically it gave me hope for other divided and violent places in the world.